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Remarks at the First Meeting of the Defense Innovation Board

Well, good morning, everyone.  Thank you for joining us today, and welcome to the Pentagon, and welcome to the very first public meeting of our new Defense Innovation Board.

I want to begin by thanking the board’s chair, Eric Schmidt, for his leadership.  And I want to thank each of you – each of you, all the board members – for your willingness to serve our country in this capacity.  You represent some of America’s most innovative industries, organizations, and people.  And we’re very grateful that you’ve decided to be part of our mission here.

As many of you have heard me say, one of my core goals as Secretary of Defense has been to push the Pentagon to think outside this wonderful five-sided box, and be more open to new ideas and new partnerships that can help our military remain what it is today – the finest fighting force the world has ever known – as we confront a changing and fiercely competitive world.  And that’s exactly why I created the Defense Innovation Board earlier this year – to advise me and future defense secretaries on how we can keep growing more competitive, stay ahead of our competitors, and stay the best, particularly by keeping DoD imbued with a culture of innovation in people, practices, organizations, and technology.

There are several advisory boards that report to me, each with a distinctive mission and membership chosen for a distinctive kind of expertise.  The Defense Science Board, of which I was long a member, is comprised of scientists and technologists with deep expertise in weapons systems and defense R&D.  The Defense Policy Board, on which I also served, has a membership with strong foreign and defense policymaking experience.  The Defense Business Board, to name another, has members who understand DoD’s vast business expertise – I’m sorry, business enterprise – and practices.  The Defense Innovation Board has a different membership and a different role.  Its members were chosen for their record of innovation outside of the Defense Department, and for their ability to suggest innovative approaches to talent management, organizational practices and structure, technology, and global strategies that have worked in their leadership experience and that might be applicable to us.

I could not have asked for a group better qualified for this mission.  I’m grateful to these citizen-leader-innovators for taking the time from their busy schedules to do this – I don’t take it for granted – and for your selfless willingness to contribute to the defense of our nation and making a better world for our children.

And, because of its unique role, the Defense Innovation Board may not operate exactly like the other advisory boards we have here at DoD, and that’s okay.  After all, we have to be willing to do things a little bit differently if we’re going to succeed in this mission.  And I’m going to commend members of the Innovation Board for already taking several preparatory fact-finding trips to military bases across the country, to get to know different parts of our institution – including some very innovative places in their own right.  Indeed, so far board members have spent time with airmen at Nellis Air Force Base, with sailors aboard ships docked in San Diego, with soldiers and special operators at Fort Bragg, and DIB members also visited our Central Command and Special Operations Command  in Tampa, among other DoD installations.

I understand that as a result of this initial fact-finding – and, of course, based on the knowledge and experience each of you brings to the table from your private-sector lives, both in industry and in the academy – members of the board will discuss today some preliminary observations and interim recommendations about certain innovative practices from outside DoD that might be useful to us inside. 

And I’m pleased that, rather than just going off and returning with a several hundred-page report, you’re here today to share these early findings with me and the public, and to solicit feedback as you begin your work.

I know you have a busy day ahead of you, so I’ll close by asking you to think for a moment – all of us – to reflect upon everything that America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are doing all around the world today as we sit here this morning. 

Right now – as we sit here in this room – our men and women in uniform are working with partners from our world-wide coalition in more ways and with more and more power every day to accelerate ISIL’s certain and lasting defeat – we saw that in Ramadi, in Hit, in Rutbah, in Qayyarah, in Makhmour, Shaddadi, and Manbij, and in the coming weeks, as we approach Mosul, Raqqa, Dabiq, and we’ll crush the fact and the idea of an Islamic state based upon ISIL’s ideology.   They’re also standing with our NATO allies, in Europe, and standing up to Russian aggression in Europe.  They’re also sailing the waters of the Asia-Pacific as part of a principled and inclusive security network – ensuring that the most consequential region for America’s future, the Asia-Pacific, remains stable, secure, and prosperous, so that all nations there can continue to rise and prosper.  They’re standing guard 24/7 on the Korean Peninsula – every day, every night – enhancing our deterrence and defense forces in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.  They’re countering Iran’s malign influence against our friends and allies in the Middle East.  And all the while, they’re helping to protect our homeland.  And they’re preparing us to contend with an uncertain future – ensuring we continue to be ready for challenges we may not anticipate today.  All that.

They know, as you know, that contributing to this mission – helping to defend this great country and make a better world – is one of the noblest things a person can do with their life.  Now you have a chance to make your own contribution to that mission, and help us accomplish it.  And you can help us create excitement about the importance of our mission, and perhaps attract some more talented young Americans to serve our country – in uniform, as civilians, or in industry. 

So on behalf of our country and our military, I appreciate your choosing to do so – from each and every one of you.  And I look forward to seeing more of you, and hearing your final recommendations.

Thank you.